A few years ago I suggested that postmodernism was on it’s last leg and projected that by 2020 it would be “history,” as they say.
Maybe it was intuition. Maybe it was just hoping. Most likely it was just been boredom with so many years of the “postmodern”.
It is true, the last half of the twentieth century can be described as a time of “posts” — postmodern, postchristian, posthuman, postcapitalist, postwestern, postfoundationalist, postdenominational, post-christian, post-post modern — with an endless list of things that were “post.” Everything was suspected to be at the end of its life expectancy. By the end of the decade I was sick of “postmodernism.” Everybody seemed brave enough to declare that the world as we knew it was coming to an end. But few turned around to name the world that was emerging. Mostly because no one knew.
THE AGE OF INTERCONNECTIVITY
Recently while passing through Washington DC, I met with a group of local leaders. There were High Schoolers in the mix so I asked them a question.
“How often do you connect with your friends online?”
I expected their answer to enlighten the group about the way the world is interconnected. Their answer surprised me.
They were unable to answer my question the way I asked it. There could be no answer to the question, how often? They were always connected. Always. With each emerging generation, the Cyber network that connects so many of us becomes less and less like a tool and more and more like the central nervous system of the human community.
What is true of high school students is true in practically every sector of society. Think business — it is difficult to survive without online connectivty — or research — think of writing a paper without google — or school — in Florida public school students can opt for a Virtual School Education — or even dating.
Like our central nervous system, even when we sleep, the network is on keeping us connected.
This will only increase as we merge with our technology in significant ways. Eventually, the human brain will be wirelessly able to connect to our networks and our environments will be “active” and ‘alive” with the information beam that will make all our computing technologies available to us wherever we are. We will not need our computers. We will embody them.
There’s a lot of interest in the singular moment when a computer “wakes up” and artificial intelligence will be born. But long before Artificial Intelligence opens its eyes, organic intelligence will become biotic intelligence. We will make ourselves more durable, more intelligence, more capable, more impressive by incorporating technology into our bodies.
What do these kinds of technology have to do with The Age of Interconnectedness?
Let’s make the point with an example. Japan, infamous for it’s culture of suicide, is experiencing an upsurge in suicides. It has become a “fad” according to a recent USA Today article. Because of Japan’s history — The Samurai who disembowels himself rather than surrender, the Kamikaze pilots who crash their planes into their target — suicide is not considered a “sin,” but a virtue. Rather than make a family suffer, a Japanese man, for example, who loses his job, will commit suicide in order to collect the insurance to pay off his family debt and perhaps save the family home.
Here’s where it gets scary. The Internet allows “depressed Japanese” to find each other and enter death pacts together. A recent USA Today article tells us that
“A few years ago, suicidal Japanese were meeting each other online, driving out into the countryside, shutting themselves up in the back of vans and killing themselves…”
Anti-suicide activist Koji Tsukino is quoted:
“People really want to be connected. People get together to die.”
This is a chilling example of two tremendous forces dovetailing into one another. The human need to “be together” (in person) even in death is amplified by the technological capacity to “be together” (online). I suggest that we live in the Age of Interconnectivity for three reasons.
First, we cannot separate what it means to be human from the deep drive to be connected. This seems to true in every age.
Second, the drive to be interconnected is so deeply entrenched in our experience that we experience it as vulnerability. Think about what you feel when your internet goes down, or your website crashes, or your mobile is disconnected. We feel alone. Isolated. Vulnerable. We are unable to perform our work or stay in touch with our friends and family.
Even enemies are deeply interconnected. Westerners watch Jihadist behead a journalist in their own living rooms via the internet. Muslims take sneak peeks at western culture online when no one is looking.
We live in the Age of Interconnectivity or, if you prefer, Interconnectedness. Even as fragmented and divided as our world is, ours is a world linked together. Each broken piece of our world has a link to the other. For better or worse our fragmented world is interconnected.
Third, Few are shocked or flustered to think that the Era of Modernity is over. Few are shocked to hear or to imagine that Age of Christendom is over. In fact, a lot of missional leaders have received the passing of both Modernity and Christendom as an opportunity for the Christ following movement to renew itself and tell the story of Jesus in a way that attracts and includes all the peoples of the earth.
But everyone would be distressed if the world wide web and our mobile phones suddenly refused to work. Take away my religion but leave me my iPhone. What matters to us and what scares us has changed. We would be extremely and globally distressed if our interconnectedness were somehow interrupted. Our technological capacities have made our primal need of connection to others extreme, ubiquitous and continous. This is a clue to the nature of the age we live in.
The West may not be Modern or Christian anymore, but it is still in search of its own humanity. And humans need each other so much that they will even gather to die together. The enhanced and widely accessible ability to connect may be the distinctive feature of our age –The Interconnected Age.
What do you think?